For a narrative explanation of this source sheet, see Mordechai the Villain: The Untold Story of Drinking on Purim by Ayalon Eliach in Ha'aretz, February 26, 2015, available at: https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/.premium-the-untold-story-of-drinking-on-purim-1.5329077
Why would Rava (280-352 CE) want people to stop distinguishing between how to relate to Mordechai, the hero, and how to relate to Haman, the villain of the Purim story recorded in the Book of Esther? Also, why use alcohol to accomplish this goal?
This statement suggests that Rava believed alcohol helps people become wiser and more insightful, rather than confused (note that Rava doesn't suggest that a lot of alcohol is needed to gain insight). How is it wise to stop distinguishing between Mordechai and Haman? Aren't they polar opposites?
Is Rava's interpretation in any way an implied reading of Esther 1:8? If not, why would he offer another equation of Mordechai and Haman?
This extremely negative conception of Ahasuerus's feast is, for all purposes, universally accepted in rabbinic sources. Why then would Rava go out of his way to offer a far-fetched interpretation of Esther 1:8 to suggest that Mordechai was in charge of wine (along with Haman) at the party?
Is Rava's interpretation in any way an implied reading of Esther 6:3? If not, why does he go out of his way to say that people don't like Mordechai?
Is Rava's interpretation in any way an implied reading of Esther 2:6? If not, why does he go out of his way to suggest that Mordechai voluntarily abandoned the holy city of Jerusalem so that he could live in Persia?
Notice Rava's alternative explanation in which he says it would have been good if Mordechai's ancestors would have been killed so that Mordechai would have never been born and, therefore, not have incited Haman. Why would Rava say this? Wasn't Mordechai a hero for following the Jewish tradition by not bowing down to Haman?
In this text, Rava says explicitly that it was not prohibited for Mordechai to bow to Haman because he would have been doing so out of fear, and such bowing is permissible. How could this be possible? Isn't idolatry one of the three cardinal sins (along with murder and illicit sexual relations) that one must die rather rather than transgress, even in cases of fear?
In this passage, Rava makes clear that he only thinks forced idolatry is a cardinal sin when done in public. Even so, if Mordechai had bowed down to Haman, wouldn't it have been in public and, therefore, prohibited, even according to Rava?
Rava clarifies that he believes forced idolatry is permitted even in public if the coercer is forcing the act for personal pleasure. In the Purim story, Haman wants to be worshipped out of egoism, which would seem to fall squarely within Rava's exception for personal pleasure. Not only that, but Rava notes explicitly that Esther permissibly violated a cardinal sin in public because it was for the coercer's personal pleasure. This suggests that Esther did precisely what Mordechai did not. This incongruence is further highlighted when comparing Esther's and Mordechai's decisions.
Notice the hypocrisy of Mordechai telling Esther not to reveal that she is Jewish, while he boldly proclaims his identity, even when risking the lives of all Jewish people by doing so.
Rava's reading of this part of the Purim story highlights that he believed Mordechai had multiple opportunities to backtrack on his wrong decision to risk the lives of all Jews by not bowing to Haman, yet Mordechai persisted in doing the wrong thing.
Rava's reading of the Book of Esther leads to a pessimistic understanding of the holiday of Purim. We do not read the joyous praise of Hallel, according to Rava, because there is not much to be joyous about. Bringing things full circle, Rava wanted people to drink on Purim so that they could have the wisdom to recognize what he saw as the reality of this holiday -- a reality in which Mordechai hypocritically and wrongly endangered the entire Jewish people unnecessarily -- rather than the way it was commonly understood, even in his time.
For a follow-up to the source sheet regarding the story about Rava killing Rabbi Zeira while getting drunk at a Purim feast, see Rava's Murder of Rabbi Zeira: A Pro-Mordechai Purim Shpiel.